Giving Feedback That Works

I am fortunate to have a broad education that includes teaching philosophy as well as design. Both of these disciplines require the ability to provide feedback to others — a useful skill that can always be improved upon. These are a few tips I’ve learned in my life for providing good feedback to others (whether you’re a manager, client, or otherwise) while achieving the results you need.



Practice Compassion.

Giving feedback from a place of an intentional and genuine wish to help comes across to others well and is likely to be taken with more weight than one of disgust, anger or other negative emotions. You’ll feel better about the feedback at the end, too!



Be Positive.

While your endgame is to improve a person’s work, the path must include positive feedback. While studying education, I learned about the power of positive feedback to achieve student success. This carries over into business, too — research shows that people are more likely to accept negative feedback when frequently receiving positive feedback. The recommended ratio? 6 positives to 1 negative piece of feedback (See article on positive feedback in the workplace on CNN). Try it – it truly changes the way people react to your (constructive) negative feedback.



Focus Your Feedback

The human mind (and ego) can’t handle broad improvement. Focus your feedback by choosing one or two key areas of improvement you wish to see. You’re more likely to see gains on these key items than if you provide a long list of faults.



Provide Examples

Generic feedback is difficult to turn into meaningful results. In design, feedback such as “I don’t like the blue color,” isn’t very helpful. Similar feedback with an example might sound like, “The shade of blue in the background isn’t working for me because it looks too similar to our competitors’ brand colors.” Providing others specific examples will help you get the results you’re looking for by opening the door to understanding.


Definitions from Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.